This is the reality of the Eastern Conference — you don’t want to be the seven or eight seed. You don’t want to face the Bulls or the Heat in the first round. That promises a short stay in the postseason.
The Knicks are currently the eight seed. The easiest route out of that hole is to leapfrog the Celtics and pass the 76ers, who lead the Atlantic Division but are only four games ahead of the Knicks. (Don’t look behind you Knicks, but the Bucks are just half a game back as the nine seed and have won 6 games in a row.)
Win the Atlantic and you are the automatic fourth seed (at worst) and avoid real trouble until the second round.
So the Knicks game against the 76ers Wednesday night is huge for them — win and they are three games back, something that can be made up in the 19 games that remain (although the 76ers have the easier schedule the rest of the way). Lose, fall five games back, and that dream is pretty much shot.
This four game winning streak of the Knicks — all by 14 points or more — has inspired dreams in New York because of the way they are doing it: sharing the ball, playing hard on defense, executing. All the things they didn’t do under Mike D’Antoni. Carmelo Anthony all but admitted he is trying harder under Woodson. We could discuss what that says about ‘Melo as a leader but fact of the matter is it doesn’t matter — right now it is working on the court. These Knicks are actually fun to watch. And seem to be having fun again.
Wednesday night is the measuring stick for the Woodson era — the 76ers blew the Knicks out of the water the last time these two played (March 11, the fifth loss in the Knicks six-game losing streak that led to D’Antoni leaving). It was one of those typically sad Knicks efforts where the team seemed to go through the motions without passion. Things are radically different now.
The Knicks are 0-6 on the second night of a back-to-back when the other team has rest (which is the case Wednesday night). But the Knicks have been breaking all kinds of trends lately.
Break this one and they have a chance of getting out of the 8 seed, getting out of the way of the two best teams in the conference. They get a real chance at advancing out of the first round.
Lose and the Knicks will find themselves in a fight with the Bucks just to make the playoffs and get the joy of the Bulls or Heat in the first round.
It’s a big game for the Knicks hopes Wednesday.
Kevin Garnett: Thon Maker “is going to be the MVP of the league one day. Mark it down.”
Not to get to inside baseball on NBA journalism, but one fundamental truth is player trainers pump up their guys. There usually is some truth in what they say, but it is in their interest to spin the player the best way possible. On and off the record it happens. It’s like asking a political campaign manager about his candidate, you will only get the positive.
Kevin Garnett worked out and helped the Bucks’ Thon Maker this summer.
In just his second season, Thon Maker has been in and out of the starting lineup for the Bucks at center, and he’s struggled this season with a true shooting percentage of 48 getting him 4.5 points a game, and PER of 9.3. (Bucks fans are understandably disappointed, but this is a second-year player, some patience is required).
“Thon Maker reminds me a lot of myself. He loves the game. He’s a young, exuberant athlete who has a lot of tools—he has touch; he has agility; he has really, good feet. He has a really good shot from three-point all the way up to 19 to 21 feet. He has very good bones, as we say.
Thon is going to be the MVP of the league one day. Mark it down. He has the bones. He has the appetite to be able to chase something like that.”
Garnett may have the wrong young-stud Buck with an MVP in his future.
Maker has gotten KG comparisons for years, he’s a very mobile and athletic but thin big who can shoot from the wing… but the physical similarities are not enough. Maker is no KG. Not yet. Maker showed promise against the Raptors last playoffs but has not taken a step forward off that progress this season, looking far more prone to fouling than defending. The effort is there, but the maturity of game has a long way to go to catch up.
Garnett is right that Maker has the tools, and he is just in his second NBA season so patience is required, but there were concerns around the league before the draft if he had the makeup to put it all together and become a quality NBA player. That question is still out there, let’s get past it before we heap on accolades.
LeBron James all good with Reggie Jackson’s free throw gamesmanship, “I’ve done it before”
Let’s set the stage: Sunday night, the fast-rising Pistons led the fast-rising Timberwolves by three with 6.2 seconds left when Jimmy Butler drew a foul on a 3-pointer. Butler drained the first two free throws. Before the third, Reggie Jacksoninterrupted to talk toStanley Johnson, who was in rebounding position. Butler missed the free throw, and Detroit held on to win 100-97. Here’s the play in question.
“I’ve done it before. I won a playoff series before doing that actually. So, I’m all for it.”
That series was in 2007, overtime of game 6 of a first-round playoff series against Washington, and the victim was the Hibachi, Gilbert Arenas. The Cavaliers were down 1, Arenas had two free throws, missed the first, then LeBron stepped in. Arenas missed the second, and the Cavs went on to get the win.
Is interrupting free throws about to become an NBA thing? If it works, players will do it.
Warriors pose for photos with Jahlil Okafor’s dad’s ‘FREE JAH’ shirt
Jahlil Okafor‘s father has not been shy about speaking out on his son’s behalf. NBA players are advocating for the 76ers to grant Okafor, who’s out of the rotation and on an expiring contract, his desired trade or buyout.
Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Stephen Curry appear to really enjoy Chukwudi Okafor’s shirt. That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily calling on Philadelphia to do anything. But they hadn’t to know how it’d be perceived.
It’s easy to predict free agents will avoid the 76ers as a result of the Okafor situation, but few anticipate getting stuck similarly. Players overwhelmingly value money, winning, role and location. If Golden State’s stars are applying any external pressure, it shouldn’t really move Philadelphia more than anything that has already been said and done.
A couple of Lonzo Ball’s triple-double assists look dubious (video)
I think the NBA needs to have a discussion with the Lakers' scorers. These are not assists. Lonzo had a good game regardless and I think he'll be a good player but they shouldn't be padding his stats. pic.twitter.com/hFwG84GWUT
The NBA defines an assist as a “pass that directly leads to a basket. … An assist can be awarded for a basket scored after the ball has been dribbled if the player’s pass led to the field goal being made.”
I wouldn’t describe either of those passing as leading directly to a basket. Ball’s teammates each hold the ball for a moment after receiving the pass then take two dribbles against set defenses.
But assists are subjective, and the Lakers aren’t alone in offering a home-court scorekeeping advantage.
Kyle Neubeck of Philly Voice
In the interest of fairness, I went through the database to see if any Simmons assists were scored similarly to those Ball ones. I clearly have a different view of assists than team scorers. pic.twitter.com/bUDwEjFEB6